iPhone 5 reaction (Passbook in, NFC out); UK EE LTE Go!; ISIS stasis - Telco 2.0 News Review

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(Ed. Just 7 weeks to go to Digital Arabia in Dubai, 6-7 November, and 11 weeks to Digital Asia in Singapore, 3-5 December. The agendas cover the Digital Economy, Digital Commerce and Digital Entertainment in each region.)

Apple launched the iPhone 5 this week, and a new features run-down is at the link. There's nothing radically new, but a lot of incremental improvements. Wired offers a specs comparison if you want to play Top Trumps, although one of the telling details is that all the phones look much the same expect the Nokia Lumia 920. Some more reviewing is here.

One important update is Passbook, an app with a faintly creepy name which acts as a bucket for tickets, receipts, and the like. There's an API that standardises how you get secure content into and out of the bucket, and Webmonkey points us to a Rails service someone built as an example of how to integrate it with a Web site.

One important absence is NFC support, trailed as always in the run-up to an Apple product launch and still not included. Dean Bubley, in typically acerbic style, agrees with Apple VP of marketing Phil Schiller:

It's not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem

Having turned over their entire Web site and most of the mag to all-iPhone-all-the-time, Wired tried to scramble back over into seen-it-all territory with a list of 5 Things That Would Make Us Fall in Love With the iPhone Again. It is unlikely that Apple is worried, as Horace's forecasts would suggest, especially if the trend is maintained that iDevices defy the deflationary tendencies of Moore's law.

Ars says it doesn't have USB 3.0. Apple patents Siri-on-a-Mac. The distinction between parallel and contending voice and data in the CDMA and GSM worlds survives in the iPhone 5, for now.

And Apple's social network, Ping, has been quietly taken out and shot.

Delight at EverythingEverywhere aka Torange - after all the wrangling, they are going to kick off this autumn with iPhone 5s and with at least a token LTE network for them to ride on. It actually looks like they might get some of that famous first-mover advantage, as the solution Apple picked to the global LTE spectrum mess was to include the 2.3 and 2.6GHz and 900MHz bands out, as Sam Goldwyn might have said, in order to get the 700, 850, 1800, and 2100s in. The 2.6GHz is still up in the air, and the 2100s are full of UMTS traffic, and Apple unsurprisingly picked the AT&T-specific 850s over the UK-specific 800s, so it looks like EE is going to have a clear run for quite a while, and a whole variety of European markets are going to be stuck with LTE but no iPhones on it, or iPhones and no LTE. What a mess.

In this week's Chart of the Week, the 3G and 4G Wireless Blog summarises the UK spectrum position as OFCOM sees it.

UKNewSpectrumOfcom2012.jpg

Details of the roll-out are here, and it's going to have fairly impressive consequences for T-Mobile and Orange. Although EE is still going to run the two brands on, the whole retail presence is going to be rebranded, and the LTE network will be reserved for EE subscribers only - or to put it another way, the T-Mo UK and Orange businesses are being put into run-off. What would be the point of opting for a non-EE service plan, or not moving over to EE when your Orange or T-Mo plan comes up for renewal?

EE claims that it will reach 70% population coverage by the end of next year and 98% by the end of 2014, with 16 cities (London included) being served by Christmas. It looks like the Nokia Lumia 920 will have the 1800MHz band in its LTE radio, and EE may even get an exclusive on the new gadget.

And they were even talking about fibre. As so often, it looks like the DTAG main board was just playing hard-to-get and actually, T-Mobile is going to make the investment. Like they did with the States, and then again with US 3G, and then again with US 1700MHz spectrum.

Meanwhile, SingTel has upgraded to HSPA Dual Carrier with Ericsson, and given Ericsson the contract for the follow-on deployment of LTE.

In the US, the FCC is planning to release a really substantial chunk of spectrum. But the carriers don't really want it. The idea is to permit spectrum sharing between radar and cellular networks in the 3.5GHz band, and progressively work up to releasing all the 1,000MHz between 2.7 and 3.7. This would only really work for small cells, both because the frequencies are relatively high and therefore less suited for macrocells, and also because the sharing itself implies power restrictions.

UCLA researchers demonstrated that operator billing systems are surprisingly poor, especially for users near a cell edge. Not surprisingly, the bias is in the operators' favour by about 5%.

Russian regulators asked Telenor for information about their Vimpelcom holdings this week. By sending a bailiff and 15 heavily armed police to the offices, of course.

Google has intervened against the gathering crowd of forkdroids, devices based on independent variants of Android. Acer, the Taiwanese laptop manufacturer, has postponed the launch of a smartphone based on Aliyun OS, its fork of Android, after a Google nastygram.

Google argues that Acer is contributing to the fragmentation of Android, and breaking the rules of the Open Handset Alliance, the standardisation group for Android.OHA members signed an agreement not to "fragment", although of course they can "customise" the software. Further, Google agrees that it's OK for Acer to do a Windows phone.

An official statement from Andy Rubin is on the Android blog.

Elsewhere, Google released a tool that lets you cross-compile Android code into Apple's Objective-C. You still have to re-do the user interface, but it's progress.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is keeping the details of Windows Phone 8's SDK very quiet indeed.

Meg Whitman of HP says that they will have to do a smartphone again, thus completing the U-turn over WebOS. ReadWriteWeb covers HP's latest, dreadful financials.

Seeking Alpha argues that the Kindle Fire was a turkey and the new one is an even bigger turkey, with a string of excellent charts.

Intel is showing off the first 32nm WLAN radio.

Up in the cloud, the French government is funding two national cloud projects, one with SFR and Bull, one with Orange and Thales, in order to keep the option of a local cloud open.

Here's a post on the British Government's G-Cloud blog, which gives some insight into just how painful public procurement can be and how difficult integration with a cloud computing system's administrative tools must be.

Canonical has reshaped part of its version strategy for Ubuntu Linux in order to make it match up better with the OpenStack controller, which is under very active development and subject to constant releases.

Automated admin tool Puppet now supports OpenStack.

Amazon has a start-up challenge out, plus some more VPN features.

German web hosting provider 1&1's founders are moving on to the cloud, with an offering optimised for very high performance and a visual designer tool (called Data Centre Designer).

In Telco 2.0 thematic news, here's a fascinating look at Telefonica Digital's Voice 2.0 strategy. In the future, they reckon, voice will be entirely contextual, specific to services and applications. What Telefonica bring to this is phone numbers and identity. They also expect that the handset user interface will be far more malleable, being re-rendered for each and every task, which is why they are so keen on Firefox OS.

Intel, meanwhile, demonstrated its Muse technology which tries to work out from device sensors whether you're available to take a call, and inform callers via presence and availability.

BBC Research is working on better adaptive streaming protocols for IPTV. Another social TV guide startup.

ISIS, the US operators' mobile payments play, is on hold.

Chetan Sharma reckons we're at 7 billion phones and 3 billion M2M devices. Re-arranging his sums, it looks like he's thinking of about 43 billion M2M terminals, and therefore, we're just coming up to the classic Bass diffusion take-off point around 10% of total adoption.

Why did Facebook scrap its HTML5 app and make a native Objective-C one? Testing and performance analysis.

Europe has used up its last /8 block of IPv4 addresses. Well, except for the one the British social security system has got tucked away, unused. Ed Felten leaves the FTC after a hitch as Chief Technologist, where he'll be replaced by networking guru Steven M. Bellovin. Invisible design. Intel's special no Linux ever chip.